The beginnings of the Czech primary school system in Brno in political and media discourse


The submitted poster deals with the beginnings of the Czech primary school system in Brno in the 19th century and its treatment in politics and media. The research is based on the following theoretical concepts and hypotheses:
Until the late 19th century, Brno’s school system was characterized by a diglossic language situation with German as the dominant and Czech as the dominated language. Despite (nationwide) democratic language policy strategies, multilingualism and diglossia in general lead to conflicts as long as the socio-cultural status and the position of the various language groups remain unbalanced, i.e. as long as these groups are not allowed to participate equally and actively in social domains of power (cf. RINDLER-SCHJERVE 2003: 2). Furthermore, the asymmetries between the involved language groups are created and reinforced discursively, be it through domain-specific, unequal language use or through ideologically based discourse practices. While the domain-specific language choice represents the common basis of diglossic functions, the discourse and especially the political discourse provide the argumentative reasons for which diglossia is legitimized and reinforced (cf. RINDLER-SCHJERVE / VETTER 2003: 41). In the case of Brno, only the establishment of linguistically differentiated educational institutions in the 1880s led to a “substantial modification of the distribution of power“ (KREMNITZ 2004: 161) and a normalization of the formerly conflictive diglossic situation.
Based on these assumptions, the following central research questions arise:

  • How did the assumed normalization of the conflictive diglossic language situation in Brno’s primary school system manifest itself in the development of the overall school system, in politics and media?
  • Which discursive practices and strategies of legitimation were used by the German and Czech organizations and bodies to assert their interests in Brno’s primary school system?
  • How did the German and Czech regional press shape and support the (socio-)political discourse of Brno’s (Czech) primary school system?

Methodically, the project works with two written corpora that are created manually from archival sources (ALEX, ANNO, AMB, DiFMOE, MZA, MZK). The first consists of legislative and political texts, the second of (approx. 800–1,000) German and Czech language newspaper texts with a focus on the period 1880–1890 and the Brno area. The analysis is carried out using software for computer-aided qualitative data and text analysis according to MAYRING (2015). The focus of the evaluation lies not only on linguistic means but also on the substantive-argumentative approach and intertextual references. In addition to qualitative content analysis, critical discourse analysis (cf. FAIRCLOUGH / WODAK 1997) is used. The multifunctional concept of discourse elaborated by the critical discourse analysis is strongly linked to questions of power and ideology and their reproduction and transformation. Following the understanding of the discourse as an overall process of social interaction, of which the text is only a part, the analysis of the social conditions (here for example the diglossic language situation) that relate to the production and interpretation of texts is emphasized.